Imagine a store that offers tantalizing summer fruits sweetly preserved in its pristine state for your pleasure all year round. Sounds a bit Willy Wonka-ish doesn't it? But at Lilamand in the small village of Saint Remy in the South of France, it is their specialty - to suspend fruit in time by using one of the oldest forms of preservation: sugar.
Fruit is picked at its peak and boiled in simple syrup, causing the natural water and acidity in the fruit to be extracted and gradually replaced by sugar. The simmering is performed roughly seven times over a three to four week period to encourage sugar to penetrate the flesh and preserve the fruit inside out.
After the simmering process, the fruit is preserved in syrup for a minimum of two months to complete the preservation process, and sugar further concentrates in the flesh.
Once the fruit has undergone preservation in syrup, each piece is drained, placed on a rack and left to dry over a week's time. The entire process from start to finish lasts between three to four months depending on the fruit.
And if you didn't think there wasn't enough sugar already in the fruit, the finished product can also be glacéd or given another sugar coating as pictured above. Strawberries, orange, cantaloupe, fig, clementine, apricot and pear preserved to look as close as to the day they were picked.
Most all fruits, except for berries, can be candied whole. My favorite of all the samplings were the red hot chili peppers, which were tantalizing to the eyes, spicy hot but balanced by a syrupy sweetness, and yielding a consistency that stood somewhere between jam and a gummy bear.
These tall green stalks may look like celery, but they are actually the stems of a well loved flower in France called Angelique. The flavors are delicate and floral. Sherry tells me that she minces candied Angelique to add to cakes and cookies for a subtle floral flavor.
As you can imagine, with as much beauty as these candied fruits exude, it is very common to use these fruit confit to decorate cakes and tarts. These glistening lemon slices would be perfect on top of a lemon meringue pie.
Our friend Helen dropped off a ladyfinger cake dressed in candied chestnuts, which was as delectable as it was beautiful.
And if you think there is a limit to the type of fruit that can be preserved, this glacéd pineapple will certainly change your mind. Beautiful, tantalizing and sweet, this store will certainly open your eyes to all that can be candied.
13210 Saint-Rémy de Provence